In Con­trol

Their yachts might be diminu­tive, but the en­ergy on the race­course is any­thing but.

Sailing World - - Starting Line -

O It’s early on a Satur­day morn­ing in Oc­to­ber, and the parking lot is al­ready jam-packed at Lake Som­er­set within the gated com­mu­nity of Sun City, in Beau­fort, South Carolina. From trucks and SUVS, men and women un­load boats and lay sails neatly on the grass. It has the bus­tle of any other re­gatta, but in this case, the boats are small. Re­ally small.

It’s the Sun City Model Yacht Club Re­gatta, and the sailors are here to practice for the up­com­ing East Coast 12 Meter National Cham­pi­onship, hosted by Tur­tle Pond Model YC in Peachtree City, Ge­or­gia, on the out­skirts of At­lanta. Fran Dit­o­m­maso, the re­gatta co­or­di­na­tor and a com­peti­tor him­self, says com­peti­tors have trav­eled from the Caroli­nas, Florida and Ge­or­gia for the two-day gath­er­ing.

The EC 12 Meter class is an ac­tive group with a national rank­ing sys­tem and a keen fol­low­ing up and down the U.S. East Coast, as well as Aus­tralia, Canada and New Zealand. A new boat costs $3,500, but good sec­ond­hand boats can be found for half.

De­spite their com­pet­i­tive spirit on the wa­ter, these ra­dio-con­trol helms­men and - women are a wel­com­ing group. They’re ex­cited to talk shop and frat­er­nize among them­selves, com­par­ing modes and set­ups of different rigs and how each baby 12 Meter is tuned. Some of the rigs are alu­minum, and oth­ers are car­bon twigs; all are built and cared for with the pre­ci­sion of an Amer­ica’s Cup shore team.

Launch­ing an EC 12 is not as simple as re­mov­ing it from its cra­dle and plac­ing it into the wa­ter. Each 24-pound boat mea­sures 59 inches in length, and the mast stands 72 inches above the deck, hold­ing up 1,300 square inches of sail. To ease

the task, Bob Dudin­sky, an EC 12 sailor and owner of RMD Ma­rine, a EC 12 sup­plier in St. Peters­burg, Florida, has de­vel­oped an in­ge­nious boat lift for trans­port­ing the boats to and from the wa­ter. This ap­pa­ra­tus, with pow­der-coated tubu­lar alu­minum and foam wrapped around both ends, hooks per­fectly un­der the EC 12’s bow and stern. The de­sign al­lows a boat to be lifted us­ing the med­i­cally rec­om­mended lift­ing method — from the side of the body and a straight back — when the boat is fully rigged.

On the race­course, orange foam buoys are placed strate­gi­cally to al­low for chang­ing wind di­rec­tions. On the wa­ter level of the tree- rimmed lake, es­pe­cially, winds change of­ten. Gusts are un­pre­dictable and er­ratic. The most ea­ger of the re­mote­con­trol yachts­men have their model boats on the wa­ter long be­fore the 0930 skip­pers’ meet­ing, prac­tic­ing tac­ti­cal ma­neu­vers be­fore the first race of the day.

Racing com­mences with a boom­ing pre­re­corded count­down from a hand­crafted wooden cas­sette player. “Three … two … one …” Then the hol­ler­ing be­gins: “Don’t come down!” “You can’t go in there!” “You have no room!” Sound fa­mil­iar? It’s amus­ing to watch the sailors, shoul­der to shoul­der, el­bow­ing each other to get ahead. Caught up in the ex­cite­ment of the races, not a sin­gle com­peti­tor wor­ries about dis­turb­ing the res­i­dent ga­tor. Con­di­tions range from light to gusty, de­pend­ing on what cloud rolls over the race­course. Re­ichard Kahle, of Charleston, South Carolina, man­ages the venue best and is crowned the Sun City Re­gatta cham­pion. Q

OUT­SIDE IM­AGES

The EC 12 is a se­ri­ous class, with 22 re­gat­tas up and down the East Coast and sailors who come from as far as Ver­mont and Michi­gan to race the Sun City Cham­pi­onship in Beau­fort, South Carolina. P H O T O S : PA U L T O D D /

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